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Bernie Sanders on Drugs

Democratic primry challenger; Socialist Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)

 


Pharmaceutical companies are responsible for opioid epidemic

Q [to Clinton]: Would you continue the war on drugs?

CLINTON: The federal government [should spend about $1 billion] to help states: Police must be equipped with the antidote to an opioid overdose. We have to move away from treating the use of drugs as a crime and instead as a health issue. And we need to divert more people from the criminal justice system into drug courts.

SANDERS: I agree with everything the Secretary said, but let me just add this: there is a responsibility on the part of the pharmaceutical industry and the drug companies who are producing all of these drugs and not looking at the consequence of it. And second of all, when we talk about addiction being a disease, the Secretary is right, what that means is we need a revolution in this country in terms of mental health treatment. People should be able to get the treatment that they need when they need it, not two months from now, which is why I believe in universal healthcare with mental health, as part of that.

Source: 2016 NBC Democratic debate , Jan 17, 2016

Why police records for marijuana but not white collar crime?

CLINTON: One out of three African American men may well end up going to prison.

SANDERS: Let me respond to what the secretary said. We have a criminal justice system which is broken. Who in America is satisfied that we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth, including China? Disproportionately African American, and Latino. Who is satisfied that 51% of African American young people are either unemployed, or underemployed? Who is satisfied that millions of people have police records for possessing marijuana when the CEO's of Wall Street companies who destroyed our economy have no police records. We need to take a very hard look at our criminal justice system, investing in jobs and education, not in jails and incarceration.

Source: 2016 NBC Democratic presidential primary debate , Jan 17, 2016

Take marijuana out of the controlled substances list

Q: What to do about drug addiction?

CLINTON: Heroin is a major epidemic. I would like the federal government to offer $10 billion over ten years to work with states.

O'MALLEY: The number of heroin deaths is growing significantly. We have to tell doctors who are prescribing opiates that we cannot have this huge number of opiates out there.

SANDERS: Today we have more people in jail than any other country on earth, 2.2 million people. Predominantly African-American and Hispanic. We are spending $80 billion a year locking up Americans. I think we need a major effort to come together and end institutional racism. We need major reforms of a broken criminal justice system. What does that mean? It means that we have to rethink the so-called war on drugs which has destroyed the lives of millions of people, which is why I have taken marijuana out of the Controlled Substance Act. So that it will not be a federal crime.

Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

Treat addiction as a disease, not a crime

The number of heroin deaths is growing significantly. What do we do? For a start, we have to tell doctors who are prescribing opiates that we cannot have this huge number of opiates out there, where young people are taking them, getting hooked, and then going to heroin. Second, we need to understand that addiction is a disease, not a criminal activity. When somebody is addicted and seeking help, they should not have to wait months to get that help.
Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

I would vote for recreational marijuana, to reduce jailings

Q: In Nevada, there will be a measure to legalize recreational marijuana on the 2016 ballot. If you were a Nevada resident, how would you vote?

A: I would vote yes because I am seeing too many lives being destroyed for non-violent offenses. We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs on Wall Street walk away, and yet we are imprisoning young people who are smoking marijuana. I think we have to think through this war on drugs which has done an enormous amount of damage.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

War on drugs is a failed policy; treatment over punishment

Bernie believes the current prohibition of drug use, colloquially known as the "war on drugs," is a failed policy. He co-sponsored a bill to reduce recidivism, allowing incarcerated offenders access to pharmacological drug treatment. Bernie has opposed expanding the war on drugs by voting "no" both on military border patrols to battle drugs and terrorism, and on plans to subject federal employees to random drug tests. Bernie recognizes that the war on drugs has not quelled the drug-use epidemics facing the nation; he believes punishment doesn't help but treatment does.
Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Decriminalize marijuana and study recreational legalization

Q: What about medical marijuana?

A: Bernie supports the medical use of marijuana and the rights of states to determine its legality. He co-sponsored the States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act in 2001

Q: And recreational pot?

A: Bernie wants to learn more about the impact that recreational legalization will have in states such as Colorado in order to determine whether or not he supports it: "Vermont voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and I support that. And when I was mayor of Burlington, in a city with a large population, very few people were arrested for smoking marijuana. Our police had more important things to do."

Q: Has Bernie ever inhaled?

A: Bernie has inhaled! But, he wasn't a fan, personally: "Because I coughed a lot. I smoked marijuana twice, didn't quite work for me. It's not my thing, but it is the thing of a whole lot of people."

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Voted NO on military border patrols to battle drugs & terrorism.

Amendment to set up a task force on counter-terrorism and drug interdiction and allow military personnel to help patrol U.S. borders.
Bill HR 2586 ; vote number 2001-356 on Sep 25, 2001

Voted NO on subjecting federal employees to random drug tests.

Drug Demand Reduction Act: Vote on an amendment to require that anyone hired by the Federal Government is subject to random, unannounced drug testing.
Reference: Amendment by Taylor, D-MS; bill by Portman, R-OH.; Bill HR 4550 ; vote number 1998-443 on Sep 16, 1998

Legalize medical marijuana.

Sanders co-sponsored the States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act:

Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR2592 on Jul 23, 2001

Exclude industrial hemp from definition of marijuana.

Sanders co-sponsored Industrial Hemp Farming Act

Sponsor's Remarks:
Rep. PAUL: Nine States allow industrial hemp production or research in accord with State laws. However, Federal law is standing in the way of farmers in these States growing what may be a very profitable crop. Because of current Federal law, all hemp included in products sold in the US must be imported instead of being grown by American farmers. Since 1970, the federal Controlled Substances Act's inclusion of industrial hemp in the "schedule one" definition of marijuana has prohibited American farmers from growing industrial hemp despite the fact that industrial hemp has such a low content of THC (the psychoactive chemical in the related marijuana plant) that nobody can be psychologically affected by consuming hemp.

The US is the only industrialized nation that prohibits industrial hemp cultivation. Industrial hemp is a crop that was grown legally throughout the US for most of our Nation's history. In fact, during World War II, the Federal Government actively encouraged American farmers to grow industrial hemp to help the war effort. It is unfortunate that the Federal Government has stood in the way of American farmers competing in the global industrial hemp market. Indeed, the founders of our Nation, some of whom grew hemp, would surely find that federal restrictions on farmers growing a safe and profitable crop on their own land are inconsistent with the constitutional guarantee of a limited Government.

Source: HR1831/S3501/HR525(2013) 12-S3501 on Aug 2, 2012

Exempt industrial hemp from marijuana laws.

Sanders signed Industrial Hemp Farming Act

Congressional Summary:Amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of "marihuana." Defines "industrial hemp" to mean the plant Cannabis sativa and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a THC concentration of not more than 0.3%.

Argument in favor (Sen. Ron Wyden):

Members of Congress hear a lot about how dumb regulations are hurting economic growth and job creation. The current ban on growing industrial hemp is hurting job creation in rural America and increasing our trade deficit. This bill will end this ridiculous regulation. Right now, the US is importing over $10 million in hemp products--a crop that US farmers could be profitably growing right here at home, if not for government rules prohibiting it. Now, even though hemp and marijuana come from the same species of plant, there are major differences between them. The Chihuahua and St. Bernard come from the same species, too, but no one is going to confuse them.

Argument in opposition (Drug Enforcement Agency):

Argument in opposition (DrugWatch.org 10/30/2013):

Source: S.359/H.R.525 14_S0359 on Feb 14, 2013

Other candidates on Drugs: Bernie Sanders on other issues:
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